Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Amy Hogue yesterday ruled in favor of the Los Angeles Conservancy in its public interest lawsuit to stop the demolition of the historic Lytton Savings building (now Chase Bank). Now a designated historic-cultural monument, the 1960 building at 8150 Sunset Blvd. was proposed for demolition as part of a new mixed-use development.
“We’re very grateful for this decision, and we’re excited that the development project can move forward incorporating the historic Lytton Savings building,” said Linda Dishman, the Conservancy’s president and CEO.
“We’ve worked with many architects and developers to successfully integrate historic places into new development, and now that can happen here,” said Adrian Scott Fine, the Conservancy’s director of advocacy. “Blending old and new is the wave of the future in Los Angeles.”
The court’s ruling found that because the City of Los Angeles’s approval of the Lytton Savings building’s demolition violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), a state law that protects California’s built environment as it does the natural environment, the project approval must be set aside. The environmental impact report (EIR) for the 8150 Sunset Boulevard project studied two alternatives that included the historic building and determined that they would feasibly accomplish the project. The city later claimed that the preservation alternatives were not feasible and approved the building’s demolition.
The Conservancy did not challenge the adequacy of the project EIR. Conservancy attorney Susan Brandt-Hawley explained the significance of the court’s ruling as, “The City Council abused its discretion and violated state law by approving this demolition of a historic resource. The loss of Lytton Savings would be a significant environmental impact, and it is feasible to instead avoid demolition and move ahead with the project.”
At 20,000 square feet, the Lytton Savings building represents only a small portion of the 330,000-square-foot development planned for the site. “The City Council already amended the project once after certifying the EIR,” Dishman said. “It can now amend the project again to accommodate this historic building, which represents just 6% of the project’s total square footage.”
The Conservancy had worked with the developer, Townscape Partners, early in the process, and reusing the Lytton Savings building was considered part of the project until architect Frank Gehry developed a new design for the site. Gehry has experience working with existing buildings; he designed a performance hall inside a 1955 building in Berlin and recently broke ground on the renovation of the historic Philadelphia Museum of Art.
The 8150 Sunset project sits on the northern border of West Hollywood and has been the subject of controversy among WeHo residents concerned about its possible impact on traffic in their neighborhood and other issues.
The City of West Hollywood threatened a lawsuit contesting the project but dropped that after Townscape agreed to pay for installation of a cul-de-sac on Havenhurst Drive to limit the flow into WeHo of traffic from the project, which will consist of 229 apartments along with retail shops and a restaurant. Townscape also agreed to give the city more than $500,000 for sewer improvements, since the project will connect to West Hollywood’s sewers.
WEHOville reached out to a spokesperson for Townscape who declined to comment on the decision.